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Mayor Mitch Roth stresses clean energy and housing in State of the County address

Mitch Roth.jpg
Office of Gov. Josh Green
FILE - Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth attended Gov. Josh Green's State of the State address on Jan. 23, 2023.

Aging infrastructure, affordable housing and clean energy are just some of the top priorities this year for Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth.

Roth is the first of Hawaiʻi's four mayors to deliver his 2023 State of the County Address this week.

Topping the priority list for Roth is the Hilo Wastewater Treatment plant in Keaukaha.

A 2022 report found 95% of the plant needs to be repaired and if the plant were to fail, nearly 3 million gallons of sewage a day would spill into the ocean at Puhi Bay.

"The Hilo Wastewater Treatment Plant remains on the verge of an environmental catastrophe not just for Hilo, not just for the island, but potentially for the state," Roth said.

Roth said the undertaking is about “owning our past.” The project could cost more than $170 million and is currently out for bid.

Since taking office just over two years ago, Roth's administration has completed three affordable housing projects in Hāmākua, Waikoloa and Hilo. They have also broken ground or begun construction on another six projects.

"When we took office, there were just 1,000 affordable housing units in our pipeline. Today, our affordable housing pipeline is at 5,767 units and growing," Roth said.

Looking to the future, Roth vowed to strengthen the Big Island's energy independence.

Last year, the county was awarded a federal grant to help it replace oil and fossil fuels with hydrogen and lay the groundwork for a carbon-neutral Hawaiʻi, including in transportation.

"By the end of the year, we expect three additional hydrogen buses to our fleet, and by 2024, we’ll add an additional 18 electric buses to the Hele On ‘ohana," Roth said.

Roth wrapped his speech by saying that everything his administration aims to do is to make Hawaiʻi County a place where the island's keiki are no longer its biggest export.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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